An American imam who once led the mosque attended by Nalid Malik Hasan, the man suspected of shooting 13 people dead at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, has said the army major did not seem to be an extremist.
Imam Faizul Khan said he knew Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan for more than 10 years. They met at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring.
Mr Khan said he was shocked and dismayed to find the person suspected in the incident was his old friend.
“I keep asking what could have made him do something like that? I was stunned and very surprised,” he said.
“These are not the actions of a good Muslim at all.”
Mr Kahn said Maj Hasan was quiet and reserved. The pair mostly discussed religious matters and rarely talked about politics, but Hasan never seemed controversial, he said.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who allegedly killed 11 people before being shot and wounded by police at Fort Hood, had said Muslims should “rise up” and attack Americans in retaliation for the US war in Iraq, a former army colleague said.
Col Terry Lee, a retired officer who worked with him at the military base in Texas, alleged Maj Hasan had angry confrontations with other officers over his views.
Maj Hasan was reportedly fighting orders to be deployed to Iraq at the end of the month, claiming that he was the victim of harassment and insults because of his Arab background and his faith.
The major is a psychiatrist who had been treating soldiers returning from Iraq for post-traumatic stress and alcohol and drug abuse problems.
“He was making outlandish comments condemning our foreign policy and claimed Muslims had the right to rise up and attack Americans,” Col Lee told Fox News.
“He said Muslims should stand up and fight the aggressor and that we should not be in the war in the first place.” He said that Maj Hasan said he was “happy” when a US soldier was killed in an attack on a military recruitment centre in Arkansas in June. An American convert to Islam was accused of the shootings.
Col Lee alleged that other officers had told him that Maj Hasan had said “maybe people should strap bombs on themselves and go to Time Square” in New York.
American Islamic groups have braced themselves for a public backlash after it emerged that the man suspected of killing 12 people at the Fort Hood army base in Texas was a Muslim.
Soon after Pentagon officials named one of the shooters at the Fort Hood facility as Nidal Malik Hasan, groups rallied to condemn an act President Barack Obama had earlier described as a “horrific outburst of violence.”
“The guy’s name is a Muslim name,” Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said, expressing fears about damage to inter-faith relations, already strained by the September 11, 2001 attacks, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maj Hasan was born a Muslim.
In a statement, CAIR condemned the shootings as a “cowardly attack” adding that “no political or religious ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence.